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New Age makes Hugh Inroads into Retreat Centers operated by Catholic Nuns
Michael H. Brown
Towards the end of John Paul II's pontificate, the Vatican issued a document about the New Age that was reviewed, one can assume, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, even though his congregation was not redactor of the actual paper, which could be described as both a report and an instruction.
It would do well for the U.S. bishops to revisit that document (entitled "Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life") and make certain that parishes, convents, seminaries, and retreat houses across North America understand and more importantly heed Rome's definition of what is meant by the "new age" -- a refined form of occultism that looks upon God as more an energy and impersonal, psychic force in classic pagan perspective and is expressly prohibited by Rome.
For despite that prohibition, which was clearly stated in the 2003 instruction, many are those who report New Age or Eastern-style practices that have been allowed and even promoted in church halls, convents, during seminars, and occasionally from the pulpit. It's an insidious infiltration that thus far has not received nearly the attention it warrants [see bottom] -- putting, as it does, those who are exposed to it into potential touch with the dark side, which comes as an angel of light.
I invite you to send such cases here, if they are occurring in your parish. In just the past week, we have linked to articles about nuns in northeast Philadelphia who instruct in massage, energy, kinesiology, and "therapeutic touch" (which some say is akin to psychic healing). At any rate, they are described as "nuns" at the Center for Human Integration. They also use "reiki," an ancient form of therapeutic touch that taps into occult "ki" or "c'hi" forces.
"There is a remarkable variety of approaches for promoting holistic health, some derived from ancient cultural traditions, whether religious or esoteric," says the Vatican document. "Advertising connected with the New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage, and various kinds of 'bodywork' (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, relexology, rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch, etc), meditation, and visualization... The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner or cosmic energy."
There it is in black and white -- the Vatican definition of New Age -- and yet confusion (a mark of the enemy) reigns.
There are nuns into drumming circle prayer. There are sisters who are reiki masters. On church grounds, there are haunted mazes.
I don't pretend to know definitively all that is wrong or right but I know we are to follow the Vatican and that evil masquerades itself. What are Catholics doing involved in something that is expressly cited in negative fashion in Vatican documents?
"This weekend will provide for a deepening of the experiences of meditation, prayer, journaling, yoga and reiki. There will be ample time for practicing techniques, quiet reflection and sharing. Donation: $75 (includes $25 non-refundable deposit). St. Joseph Center, Mount Saint Joseph, Wheeling," says an announcement from West Virginia.
At the left are illustrations from the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality (for further information, it says, "e-mail Sr. Carole Riley, Ph.D.").
"Prepare the Way of the Lord -- Saturday, December 9 (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)," says another ad. "Participants will discover ways of praying with their bodies using creative movement as the sacred scriptures are explored in the season of Advent. (Wear comfortable clothing). Presenter: Sister Molly Maloney, OSF, M.A., LMT. Offering: $35 (lunch included)."
What's going on in West Virginia? What's going on in dozens of other dioceses?
Should "St. Joseph" really be uttered in the same breath as Buddha, or "tai chi"?
There are Catholic centers that offer an "ancient, sacred tradition" called the "labyrinth" (seven cycles and seven turns representing the seven stages of life). Some argue that it is okay and that there is even a labyrinth at an French cathedral at Chartres. There is the enneagram, which claims to determine types of personalities. In Pennsylvania are the "Sisters of the Humility of Mary" who offer yoga and even holistic health care for animals.
I'm not competent to judge the esoteric nature of all such practices (no one is against feeding a dog well), but again it seems to contravene the Vatican. "The important thing to note," said the document, "is that God is reduced in certain New Age practices so as furthering the advancement of the individual."
"New Age appeals to people imbued with the values of modern culture. Freedom, authenticity, self-reliance, and the like are all held to be sacred."
The Vatican definition has been ignored, and it appears to be nothing less than a full-blown crisis -- with the question of how Catholics can so openly ignore authority.
"From this place we respond to the needs of families, youth, the elderly, homeless, prisoners, and immigrants in sites that include Ohio, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia," says the website in West Virginia. "Internationally, we serve in Haiti and have served in Africa, Bangladesh, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico, and Vietnam."
Reiki, drumming circles, medicine dolls: it involves nuns across the Western Hemisphere. Canada. The U.S.
Writes one concerned reader, "It didn't take me long, but I found convent after convent, parish after parish, Catholic retreat center after retreat center, engaged in reiki and more. Is the Vatican aware? Aware that so many Roman Catholics are... Pagan Catholics?"
Strikes me as a good question.
[see also: Villa Maria and medicine dolls, Sisters of St. Francis and reiki, nun who is reiki master, convent reiki therapy, Franciscan healing touch, Franciscan tai chi, labyrinth spirituality, labyrinth in Maryland, another nun reiki master, enneagram at Our Lady of the Pines, Welcoming the autumnal equinox with New Jersey Sisters of Christian Charity, the labyrinth with Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius, labyrinth at St. Joseph retreat center in Boston, reiki in Cincinnati, labyrinth in New York, Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon: ancient Indian healing, Third Order Sister of St. Francis and naprapathic treatments, Tai chi during Lent, labyrinth in Ontario, labyrinth in Michigan, drumming circle prayer, Holy Cross sisters and the labyrinth Dominicans and reiki, and haunted labyrinth at church]
[resources: Prayer of the Warrior]
[see too: "Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life"]